Interview with Evan Dando by Ed Condran

From Free Times 6th December 2006

Soundcheck - Evan Dando

The Lemonheads didn't break up a decade ago. The group, whose lone constant is singer-songwriter Evan Dando, faded away after releasing the underheralded Car Button Cloth in 1996. Aside from recording a dull solo disc called Baby I'm Bored, Dando has been pretty quiet since then. However, in 2005, he started recording again as a Lemonhead. Dando and new co-conspirator Bill Stephenson (Descendents, All) crafted an eponymous disc, which is the Lemonheads' most cohesive disc to date. Dando spoke about it in a recent phone interview.

Bill Stephenson makes a huge difference. What inspired you to record with him?

He's just an animal on drums. That cliché is true. You're only as good as your drummer. Think about all of the great bands and you have a great drummer. Jimi Hendrix Experience had Mitch Mitchell; Nirvana had Dave Grohl; Led Zeppelin had John Bonham. When you walk into a room first, what do you notice? The drums? I'm a drummer, too. I'm real particular. If I don't feel the guy is getting it right, I can't go that way. This is the first record in which I didn't even think about it.

This is the All-Star Lemonheads.

Yeah, We got Karl Alvarez from All. I even got J. Mascis to do some guitar solos. This is like the über Lemonheads to me. This is perfect. We used to be called the Descenderplacements and shit. We at least got a couple of guys from the Descendents, Karl and Bill. I even have Garth Hudson from the Band on two tracks. This worked out really well.

How did you hook up with Mascis?

It was a last-minute thing. He was playing in Boulder, Colorado. We gave him a CD of songs I wanted him to play. He made the songs sound like Dinosaur Jr. All those Neil Young chords. He just ripped it up. He put the songs up a notch.

The disc is a mix of dark and bright tunes.

It's an unholy mixture. It's dark and light. There's some fast stuff. It's got that surf beat, which of course you get when Bill is playing drums.

You took an Axl Rose-type hiatus.

I was really into the idea of taking a seven-year vacation and so I did. I just did a lot of things that weren't that smart. That was what I was doing. I was doing things that were as dumb as possible to see what would happen.

What were some of the dumb things?

You know, all the drugs and stuff. I wanted to try it out. I wanted to live out the whole cliché.

When did you start doing drugs?

I've been doing drugs since I was 14. I was 14 when I started doing coke. I was 11 when I started to smoke pot.

What was the inspiration?

I was really crazy about William Burroughs and Charles Bukowski and the Rolling Stones. It was kind of stupid. I was always into mind-expanding drugs. I was hell-bent on trying out everything. I got that out of the way luckily. Now I'm just happy to smoke the occasional joint. I don't even drink.

How much do you miss drugs?

Yeah, I do miss it. It's always in you, that feeling. My wife keeps me happy enough that I don't need to do that. When I was on my own, I would go full-bore everyday. I would spend $500 on drugs everyday.

You were a rock star. One thing lacking today is rock stardom.

Unapologetic hedonism, right.

Yes. The Stones, Zeppelin, you and Noel Gallagher are the last of the rock stars. Rock has gotten so overly earnest and boring.

I know. It's scary. I was up in a studio in Woodstock recording with Garth Hudson. There was this new band that had to even hide the weed. They were like, "Don't let anyone see the weed." I was like, "Wow, things have changed."

Who do you love now that you hated a generation ago?

The Smiths. The Smiths are currently the most influential band. They're the Dylan of now.

Your whole life you've gone the wrong way but somehow you're back.

Yeah. I've taken chances, but I am back.